We recently visited the Brassai exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and it opened my eyes to the breadth and depth of his work. Brassai is best known for his “Paris at Night” photos, but he was so much more than that. I read somewhere that he started out as a painter, but was inspired to take up photography by Andre’ Kertesz*, his contemporary in the Paris art scene of the 1920s. Kertesz seemed to have a knack for photographically noticing an element of everyday life that “would make a good picture”, and then capturing it-two very distinct activities.
Brassai also had this talent –
To me, this one seems particularly “Kertesz like”
Many of Brassai’s photos were of tradespeople just doing their job
The photo adjacent to this one had this guy and his crew eating their lunch. I hope they had Hand Sanitizer with them.
I should note that the museum staff gave me permission to take pics of these pics with my phone.
Apparently, Brassai photographed many society functions, but he is most famous for his pics of the “other” Paris, the one that exists after dark. As depicted, this is the world of night clubs and bars, prostitutes and criminals, and for a photographer, it also was a world of visually interesting characters and situations that made good pictures.
Considering the speed of photographic emulsions at the time, this atmosphere must have presented constant lighting challenges, and aside from the necessary tripod, the cameras, glass plates and carriers must have required a fair amount of muscle to lug around.
These two were my favorites
“Brassai” is running through February 17th. If you were raised on traditional photography, and have a chance to visit San Francisco between now and then, put this show on your list.
I’m going back for a second look.
*Who wasn’t inspired by Kertesz?